Peace-focused questions against traditional view of the cross

OK, I guess there are a number of good blogs that I am reading today. Greg Boyd has always been one to so clearly state the things that I have questions about, and I really appreciate his questions regarding this quite popular theory regarding what Jesus did on the cross (Penal substitution). (For readers who wouldn’t call themselves Christians, maybe this will serve to add some variety to you feelings on what various followers of Jesus are thinking) I know this post is getting pretty deep regarding things I don’t really post on, but I think its good.  Greg just got back from a conference called the Non-Violent Atonement Seminar. His reflection follows:

The one thing all of us have in common is a concern about the dominance of the Penal Substitutionary theory of the atonement. This is the view that the way Jesus reconciled us to God was by becoming the object of God’s wrath against sin. We don’t deny that Jesus “died in our place” and “as our substitute.” Nor do we deny that we’re reconciled to God only “through the blood of Jesus” or that Jesus died as our “atoning sacrifice.” We just have serious reservations about the Penal Substitutionary interpretation of this substitutionary and sacrificial language.

For example, if God punishes Jesus for our sin, does God really forgive anybody? If you owe me a hundred dollars and I won’t let you off the hook till someone pays me, did I really forgive your debt? Why does God frequently forgive people in the Bible without requiring a sacrifice? So too, are sin and guilt the kind of things that can literally be transferred from one party (us) to another (Jesus)? Where is the justice in God killing his innocent Son because of what we humans did? Does Jesus reveal God’s love for us, or placate God’s wrath towards us? And doesn’t this way of thinking presuppose that you can attain a good, loving result through violence? Does the end justify the violent means? Isn’t this the sort of thinking that has fueled the endless cycle of violence that’s characterized human history? (I address other concerns in the Q &A section of my website).

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Shout out to Tony Jones: New book coming soon

Steve posted at Emergent Village this update on Tony’s new book:

Tony Jones’ new book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier doesn’t come out until March 2, 2008, but Sam Andress already has an early review: “This is the one book I would hand anyone who has a caricatured understanding of all things emergent. It is a journalistic sort of narrative with deep humility along side a bubbling passion to clearly articulate the theological shifts which are shaping and transforming the church into something beautifully ancient and future, something on the frontier where the explorers are roaming! Tony lucidly paints the frameworks of understanding out of which this emergent church and its corresponding theology arise. It is also written in an emergentesque style. It is not a ‘how-to-start-an-emergent-church guide.’”

Tony has posted official endorsements over on his new TonyJ.net website, and of course there’s a Facebook group you can join to keep in the loop on the new book as well.

Spirituality of “Hanging out”

As a leader of a community following God in the way of Jesus, this concept of “hanging out” comes with so many mixed feelings. For me personally, it is a wonderfully exciting thing and filled with meaning, but I better explain the other side first. Perhaps it just my own insecurities of what people think I am doing, but I wonder why a church would ever support someone who just hangs out with people. Perhaps it seems to some that I am just making friends and calling that ministry. Perhaps it seems that we are just sitting around drinking coffee, a beer, playing games, or watching a movie. Where is the worth in this? Isn’t leadership supposed to be focused on saving souls (evangelical cynicism… sorry), getting people into the church, helping people feel good about life or maybe give money, helping them grow spiritually, or maybe just letting them know that the church really is there for them. These things don’t come to mind when I tell people that for the most part, I am simply committed to “hanging out” with people. It doesn’t seem purposeful enough.

My own excitement with hanging out stems from the idea that yes, all of those things that I mentioned above are wonderful, but things of real meaning, all those things above, don’t happen without a grounding in a  trusting relationship. At the core of hanging out is a desire to build trust and develop relationships. This, I think, should be at the core of how we do what we are called to do… that is, BE Jesus to the world. We do this through relationships. God has created us in his image, has he not? And isn’t his image, at the core, a relationship (the Trinity)? Love, sacrifice, peace, forgiveness, serving… all connected to relationship.

So as I continue on with my already fuzzy defined ministry of my life, I am beginning to really feel as though the classical sense of what a “pastor” is does not have to be the case. Do I want to be forced into busyness and stretched-thin-ness so that I cannot just hang out with people? What does it mean for me to be a leader… a spiritual leader, a leader that looks like Jesus…? How do I really make a difference with people in their lives? I would have to say I would rather show up at their house and sit on their couch than get them to show up and sit in a pew. I would probably rather spend 5 bucks and two hours over a good cup of coffee than to “donate” 25 bucks to a random nonprofit. I would rather have someone come over and watch a movie or play a game than hope that they “discover God” in “Sunday school.” Church is not in a building. Community, and relationship, and coffee, and beers… these are all church. God’s Spirit is here.